By Tom Withers, AP Sports Writer
CLEVELAND (AP) — Derrick Williams has bounced from one losing situation to another during his NBA career. He’s finally stopped in a place worth staying.
Williams showed some of his versatility by playing point guard during his Cleveland debut and LeBron James and Kyrie Irving scored 27 points apiece as the Cavaliers returned from the road and downed the Denver Nuggets 125-109 on Saturday night.
Signed to a 10-day contract earlier this week, Williams, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2011 draft, could latch on for much longer with the NBA champions.
“We hope this is a long-term thing,” James said. “Even though he’s on a 10-day contract, we believe it’s going to be long-term. We hope this is a place that can help him grow and make the next step. He’s 25 years old — it doesn’t seem like it because I’ve been hearing his name for so long. He hasn’t even gotten to his prime yet.”
The Cavs are Williams’ sixth organization and he’s hoping he can stick around long enough to help Cleveland defend its title. He’s never played on a team with a winning record.
“I wanted to be in a winning environment and get that feeling,” said Williams, who scored 7 points in 20 minutes. “I haven’t had that feeling since I’ve been in the NBA. It feels good. It feels like I’m back in college and that’s what I wanted.”
James added 12 assists in 32 minutes as the Cavs won for the fifth time in six February games after going 7-8 in January.
Back from a four-game road trip, the Cavs didn’t find their range until after halftime, when they opened the third with an 18-0 run to take control.
Irving drained two 3s on consecutive possessions, Kevin Love hit two more and James dropped another in a span of 2:43 as Cleveland pulled away and improved to 23-5 at Quicken Loans Arena.
Cleveland’s barrage quickly buried the Nuggets.
“It’s transition three, it’s layup, it’s dunk,” Nuggets coach Mike Malone said, rattling off Cleveland’s method of destruction. “The next thing you know it’s, ‘Oh my gosh, you’re down by 20 points.’ They have so many weapons and LeBron is going to find the right guy. It’s tough when you have a three-headed monster, which they do.”
Nikola Jokic had 27 points and 13 rebounds for the Nuggets, who played their third game in four nights and didn’t have the legs to mount a serious comeback after falling behind by 22 in the third.
The Cavs only led 59-55 at halftime and didn’t exactly dazzle defensively in the first 24 minutes.
But Irving opened the third quarter with a 3-pointer and Cleveland was on its way, knocking down 6 of 9 from behind the arc. Everything fell for Cleveland during the 18-0 spurt as James even tossed in a shot that was supposed to be a lob to Tristan Thompson.
James, Irving and Love combined for 27 of Cleveland’s 33 points in the third.
In the second quarter, Williams, recently released by Miami, took the floor with James, Channing Frye, Kyle Korver and Richard Jefferson, all of them taller than 6-foot-7.
“It’s a fantastic lineup,” James said. “We’ve got guys that can rebound, that can run and that can shoot. It’s something coach can put in his pocket if he wants to use again.”
James didn’t try to pretend he was attempting a shot when the pass intended for Thompson dropped.
“I wasn’t even looking at the rim,” he said. “He had a small underneath him and I was just trying to lob it up to him. Sometimes you get lucky.”
Irving confirmed he’ll star in a film based on the “Uncle Drew” character he created for Pepsi commercials. Irving did not reveal any details, but said he’s excited about the project.
Nuggets: Forwards Kenneth Faried (sprained right ankle) and Danilo Gallinari (strained left groin) may not return until after the All-Star break. Faried has missed two games since being injured Wednesday, while Gallinari has missed six and hasn’t played since Feb. 1. … Malone has one of the league’s youngest teams with nine players 25 and under, and five 21 and under.
Cavaliers: Thompson added 13 points and 13 rebounds. … James passed Brad Daugherty (5,227) for the second-most rebounds in club history. Zydrunas Ilgauskas (5,904) is first. … G Iman Shumpert missed his third straight game with a sprained left ankle. … Korver has made 12 of his last 14 3-pointers.
Nuggets: Complete a tough stretch by hosting Golden State on Monday.
Cavaliers: At Minnesota on Tuesday. Cleveland has won five straight over the Timberwolves.